Eyes on the road, but hands off the wheel?
By Simon Hacker | 14th April 2023
You know how it is: a long day in the office and another slogging commute on the M5.
With the era of the self-driving robocar still somewhere beyond the horizon, working life on the road can be tough – until perhaps now.
You'll need to run a £50,830 2023 Ford Mustang Mach-E SUV and, after a three-month free trial, also cough up a monthly subscription of £18, but in return Ford's BlueCruise system is promising access to a level of of road-legal tech that might well make business driving a lot less demanding.
As the first automaker to introduce "hands-off, eyes-on" advanced driver assistance, Ford's technology is now approved for pre-mapped motorways (that's 2,300 miles) in Great Britain. And if you feel too timid, Ford points out that 64 million hands-free miles have already been thus driven in the US and Canada.
BlueCruise monitors traffic, speed signs and driver attentiveness and, by using infra-red eye-monitoring technology, tells the driver to step back in if their attention wanders.
Martin Sander, general manager, Ford Model e, Europe said: "It's not every day that you can say you've placed one foot in the future, but Ford BlueCruise becoming the first hands-free driving system of its kind to receive approval for use in a European country is a significant step forward for our industry.
"Modern highways can be demanding even for the most confident drivers, and intimidating for many. BlueCruise can do some of the 'heavy lifting', to make highway driving less of a chore, and give drivers that little extra confidence and convenience."
The system, which works to a maximum speed of 80mph, monitors road markings, speed signs and evolving traffic conditions to control steering, acceleration, braking and lane positioning. It also regulates safe and consistent distances from vehicles ahead. Unlike a traditional cruise control system, it will work down to a complete halt in traffic.
In addition, sophisticated infrared camera technology continually checks driver attentiveness for safety and confidence.
Jesse Norman, UK Transport Minister, said: "It is great news that Ford has chosen us for the European launch of its BlueCruise technology, and I am delighted that this country is once more at the forefront of innovation.
"The latest advanced driver assistance systems make driving smoother and easier, but they can also help make roads safer by reducing scope for driver error."
Ford expects BlueCruise to be activated in further European countries as and when regulatory conditions permit. It will roll out the system to further Ford vehicles in the coming years.
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